12:45pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Game of Thrones' Star Breaks Down Meera Reed's Actions: "Her Job Is to Protect Bran at All Costs"
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode six of Game of Thrones' sixth season, "Blood of My Blood."]
Hindsight is a funny thing. A few episodes ago, Meera Reed (Ellie Kendrick) sat in the snow outside of the Three-Eyed Raven's lair, bemoaning her situation, stuck doing nothing as Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) sharpened his green-seeing skills.
"I sit in there, I watch him have his visions, and nothing ever happens," she said at the time. As it turns out, nothing can become a whole lot of something in no time at all.
Meera's quiet fury over her stagnant situation looks like absolute paradise in comparison to the events of "The Door" and "Blood of My Blood," in which the Raven (Max von Sydow), Hodor (Kristian Nairn), Summer and the Children of the Forest all perished in an instant. Meera and Bran barely escaped with their lives, surviving only due to excellent timing from Benjen Stark (Joseph Mawle), hovering somewhere between White Walker and man after six seasons in the cold.
With so many bodies in their wake, and still so many miles to walk, Kendrick spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about Meera and Bran's journey thus far in Game of Thrones, and the distance yet to be traveled.
Meera Reed is at the heart of a lot of action right now. How much faster does this season feel for you, compared with previous storylines?
It feels fast, definitely. There have been a lot of revelations at the heart of the Bran storyline, which has been a real payoff for people who have been following the show for a while. That's been exciting. For us, it's great to watch all these twists and turns in the plot suddenly thrown up, because as an actor in this show, you don't find out what's going to happen until you get the scripts. It was so exciting to get them this year. I would race through the scripts, and it was so exciting, because we're past where we are in the books right now. It was revelation after revelation while reading these scripts.
What was your reaction when you first read that final act of "The Door," with the White Walkers storming the Three-Eyed Raven's lair?
When I was reading the episode, I completely forgot that I was a character in the show. (Laughs.) I was reading it with such excitement, because this is a real story unfolding, with so many mysteries and quantum leaps and Inception-style traveling between the past and the present. I found it very exciting. So the first time I read it, I was just reading it for enjoyment, really, because it was so well-written and exciting. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I was really keen to get started working on it, because it's such an epic sequence. I was shown a few CGI mock-ups beforehand, too. Before they do a proper pass at all the CGI, they'll do a crude version of it so everyone's on the same page. They showed it to me, this six-minute sequence of 3D blobs running around onscreen with our faces on them, and even that! I was just like, "Guys, this is incredible." It was lovely to actually watch it on the screen. A lot of the filming we were doing was running away from men in green micro suits playing wights, to be replaced by graphics later. It was very cool to see.
With that in mind, what do you recall of shooting that sequence, which was by most accounts an instantly classic Game of Thrones moment?
A lot of what's happening in that scene, in Meera's head, comes down to adrenaline. There's just no way she can stop and consider logically what's happening. If you have an army of the undead chasing after you, you're only going to be thinking one thing: "Run!" It was interesting, having the challenge of creating that adrenaline and fear and sadness of Hodor, but not being able to process it at all. Having to re-create that feeling of immediacy, in a stuffy studio at 4 p.m. on a Thursday when you've been filming the same scene for a couple of days … it was difficult. But it was an exciting challenge, to constantly inject the energy those characters must be feeling in that moment. I think the editing of the episode was fantastic in upping the ante of the force and energy of what's going on.
Meera is the one who utters those now infamous words: "Hold the door!" In the moment, does she know she's sacrificing Hodor so that she and Bran can get away?
I don't think she realizes that. For Meera, in that moment, she knows her job is to protect Bran at all costs, so it's like tunnel vision. She's an incredibly protective person, and she knows that Bran is a person she has to look after. In this moment of complete terror, I think her one objective is to get out with Bran, and she knows that's the most important thing. It's what Jojen told her before he died. She has to honor her dead brother's word over everything. I don't think she really has the thought process of throwing Hodor to the dogs so that she can survive. I think it's just a case of brute survival. She does what she has to do.
Stopping down on Jojen for a minute, how much is Meera's brother on her mind through all of this — from where we see her at the start of the season to this harrowing escape from the Raven's lair?
It's a huge part of her. Her whole existence for a long time was looking out for her brother, and being her brother's protector. It was a job she was tasked with. Once he dies, she's left kind of purposeless, which is why she clings on so much to the Bran mission. It's a dedicated purpose she can jump onto. For her, she's completely destroyed by her brother's death. However, she's someone who is incredibly strong and pragmatic. She knows she can't achieve anything by continuing to mourn. Her best way to work through those things is by action and dedicated purpose. That's why I think she gives 1,010 percent to protecting Bran and making sure this time it works out with him, where it didn't with Jojen.
Minutes after escaping, Bran and Meera are surrounded by wights. What's on her mind when she hugs Bran in this scene? Is it fear? Regret? Resignation?
I think it's resignation, and a sense of huge failure. She's thinking that it was all for nothing. "What was the point of this? What was the point of my brother dying? What was the point of coming out here?" She did not want to go into that cave in the first place, and I don't blame her. (Laughs.) She's just thinking about the pointlessness of it all. She feels a deep sadness because she's failed. She thinks she's failed her brother. She thinks she's failed Bran. She thinks she's going to die. It's absolutely desperate for her, which is why when Benjen arrived — even though he's completely terrifying and weird — it's a huge relief. She knows she needs to go with him, even though she doesn't trust him. Otherwise she's going to die.
Benjen's return answers one of the oldest mysteries of the show. He disappeared in the third episode of the first season, without any trace until now. His comeback is yet another huge moment arriving in your storyline.
It was so fantastic. And it's interesting. If you've read the books, then you know about the Coldhands character, who was cut out of the Bran, Meera and Jojen storyline [on the show]. It was always interesting, having read the books, watching this amalgamation of storylines happen. Benjen is sort of like the Coldhands character in that he's a slightly suspicious guy who is half-dead and half-alive with blue hands. I thought that was very cool, the way it happened. It was a nice marriage between the book and TV revelations rolled into one. I was very excited having him on set. I loved working with [Joseph Mawle], and I loved having another member of our rapidly dwindling gang. (Laughs.) We needed him right then!
You mentioned Meera not trusting Benjen. Is that purely at first glance, or even after they have their conversation at the campsite?
She's still skeptical. That's quite natural, too, because he does have blue hands and he is half-dead. (Laughs.) She's skeptical in a way that's quite logical. Her first concern is always, "Is this safe for Bran? Can I entrust this young boy's life — and her own life, which is a secondary consideration — to this stranger wielding a fireball and a horse?" She's naturally suspicious. Readers of the books will know this, but Meera comes from the Crannogmen, and they're these naturally slightly suspicious loners. She can sometimes react somewhat warily to the company of anyone, especially strangers, and especially in this instance, when she's just been through such a terrifying ordeal. Of course she's unsure of whom she can trust.
The Three-Eyed Raven is gone, but Benjen says he's reborn now, which implies that Bran has taken on much of the Raven's powers. How important is Bran in the grand scheme of things, ultimately?
You know as much as I do, because now that the books are finished, it's anyone's guess as to what will happen. From my perspective, if you think about all the powers that he's amassed, it's going to make him a force to be reckoned with. I have no idea what's going to happen, and I can't wait to find out, but I think this makes Bran such an exciting character, with all the theories and revelations and the time-traveling we've been doing. … I think they've set up something very interesting.
Time travel has blown the world of Westeros open in a massive way. Have you paid any attention to any of the theories stemming from Bran's new power?
I haven't done much research in the fan interpretations, because I actually don't have Internet at my home right now, so I'm living in a weird Internet-free world where my friends will loop me in to let me know that everyone's excited about Game of Thrones. So I hardly even have access to my emails right now. (Laughs.) But when I read the scripts and looked at the Inception levels in the time travel, and all the different layers overlapping, it makes my mind hurt when I think about it too much. All I can say is [showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss] have obviously got it worked out very cleverly. It was a joy to be a part of that crazy, mind-bending process.
As someone who has read the books and knows their lore, what's your take on how the show has moved past and deviated from the books this season?
Everyone's doing a very good job. It's so difficult, not only to create all the different strands and separate them from the books and synthesize them into one cohesive series of episodes, but to then go from there and extrapolate how to make them into satisfying storylines moving forward … it's such a huge task. I was so impressed by the way they did it. It was really pleasantly surprising, finding out these revelations, like the Hodor thing. I thought that was told in such an amazing and imaginative way, and formally inventive. I loved it. I've been very pleased throughout the show about how they're moving forward and not resting on their laurels, but pushing forward and creating new stories.
After "The Door," it looked very unlikely that Bran and Meera would survive without help. Thankfully, Benjen provided just that when they needed it most. Now that the three of them are together, what can we expect next?
They have a huge journey ahead of them. They were on death's door, and they've been saved for now, but they have to carry on pushing through an incredibly adverse climate. They're miles away from home still. It's not like everything is rosy and perfect for them now that Benjen has shown up. They still have a huge journey ahead of them, and many more challenges to face.
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